This is a strange title I know, but it refers to something in my life that was and is important, especially at this time in history. I will try to explain that in due course.
This is about surrender, commitment and trust. These are the vital elements of our faith in the finished work on the Cross. We are saved by our faith in who Jesus is and what he accomplished on our behalf, but faith is not faith unless it involves trust, commitment and surrender.
For many, and in some ways for me, absolute surrender was challenging.
A Worldly Walk
I get the impression that many in the churches, especially the younger generation, have been introduced to the basics of Christianity without the fundamentals that make it genuine and real in practise. I mean, for one thing, being sorrowful and ashamed of our former life of sin – it seems that the thought of “repentance” is abhorrent to many preachers and churches.
In the day of genuine revivals, people would not only be told about and reminded of the horrors of sin and hell, but be convicted to such a point that many would be sobbing and begging God to forgive them. Now, laughter and frolics, music and dance are more likely to accompany gospel preaching, and the offer of salvation is handed out like free tickets to a rock concert.
Adding Christ to MY Walk
The corollary of that is, many walk away from “giving their heart to Jesus” in a gospel meeting with a distorted concept of Christian living, one that involves unwrapping a brand shiny new life as a gift from God, trying it on like a new suit, and then going back to their former lives almost unaltered, but with the addition perhaps of church fellowship and songs.
But being born again isn’t having a useful addition installed, like a conservatory or a patio, it’s knocking the house down entirely, carting it away, and building a new one in its place whose owner and landlord is God.
We are called to DIE, before we can be BORN anew into the family of God.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. [Col 3:2-1]
Many are reluctant or unwilling to go to that extent. They see the life of Christ as an add-on, not a replacement. But you simply cannot mix the old life and the new! The old life of the flesh has to die. It has to surrender to the life of God within.
If the flesh was capable of achieving all that the Lord requires, then a religious system of self-government and trying hard might work. It does not, and the sooner we discover that the better. The ONLY way to deal with the old life, the old nature, is to nail it to the Cross with Jesus, and rise again with him to a NEW life.
Those who are sailing through life with no problems, with the best of provision in terms of career, family, possessions and relationships are in the worst position to accept the Lord, because they are afraid of giving up what they have for something unknown – something possibly demanding and arduous that would deprive them of the comforts this world has to offer.
(This is why Jesus warned that it would be harder for the rich to be saved than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Mark 10:23 – 27). And in the early churches, they were predominantly simple and poor:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. (1 Cor 1:26)
Those who are now enjoying ease, and comfort, and having the best that life can offer would in fact be better off experiencing in some degree what happened to Job, losing what they rely upon in order to gain something far better (because what in this world can compensate for an eternity of blessing with God?)
Mark 8:34-36 “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?“
The Problem, Now and In Future
While life ticks on as something we perceive as “normal” then perhaps many can get away with half and half a Christian experience, living in this world enjoyably while honouring God, praying and attending Church, even having a genuine born-again experience but being “worldly” – which is something the bible warns against many times:
Romans 12:12 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Mark 4:19 The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
I have to say, God is not opposed to comfort, provision, possessions, nor even financial blessings if they don’t interfere with what is more important. But the problem is that these things, and dependence on them, is becoming an increasingly large stumbling block as we head into darker days.
I mean that the lure of happiness, comfort and wellbeing of all kinds is going to be a major part of the endtimes deception, and fewer people are going to choose to walk in righteousness and reject the devil’s promises than ever before!
Imagine a delusion SO very strong and appealing that your very soul longs for it, even though you love the Lord. The promise of a good life with all its richness is something hard to reject; therefore we MUST know the alternative – but even more so, be so aquatinted with and practised in it – so that, like Paul, we can say, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ” [Phil 3:7-9]
But what does this have to do with being born again?
As I said at the beginning, being truly born again requires not just faith, but surrender – giving up control of your own life to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
You cannot serve two masters – God and self! It’s impossible and will lead to disaster:
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Mammon is more than just money – it is hedonism, materialism.
“In biblical culture the word mammon often carried a negative connotation. It was sometimes used to describe all lusts and excesses: gluttony, greed, and dishonest worldly gain. Ultimately, mammon described an idol of materialism, which many trusted as a foundation for their world and philosophy. Some scholars cite Mammon as the name of a Syrian and Chaldean god, similar to the Greek god of wealth, Plutus.” [Source]
While the bible contrasts God and worldliness as the two “masters”, this is equally true of trying to please God while pleasing yourself. But some people have difficulty giving up. I certainly did (and not because of wealth, which I’ve never had!).
An Independent Spirit
Some people grow up with an ingrained independence (or perhaps rebellious nature) born of a lack of trust.
When growing up has been difficult or hurtful, when those who were supposed to look after you turned out to be abusive, then trust is lost. It’s hard to fall back into the arms of a person who might harm or dishonour you. Thus, a distrust grows and becomes a hard shell through which to view other people and life around you.
But when it comes to meeting the Lord, the lack of trust gets in the way. Complete surrender is more difficult, because one’s experience of parental care, and other people’s supervision in general, is skewed towards suspicion.
When self-preservation comes into play, and it feels dangerous to surrender to a higher power (whatever that might be) then surrendering one’s life to the Lord is surrounded by emotional difficulties, some of them so deep that they cannot even be accessed with the conscious mind, so they are not capable of change. (It’s a knee-jerk reaction, in other words.)
On the other hand, the problem of this lack of complete surrender is – as I said earlier – the danger of trusting in other things instead, principally SELF, but also the things of this world. Things that can be manipulated and controlled so they are SAFE.
As a Christian with this problem, I needed recently to be born again, again! Not literally, but figuratively – I was not an unbeliever, no, I was not outside the Kingdom of God; I trusted in and accepted the salvation offered to me so freely. I was and am a believer in every sense of the word. However, surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of my life was (is?) a struggle.
I needed to see that MY life doesn’t just get enhanced, added to, improved, reworked by the free gift of salvation, but the new life of Christ REPLACES it. Furthermore (and crucially) this new life is not MINE, it remains the life of Christ, shared, lived in union with Him; it is not mine to use, but HIS to administer.
My OLD foolish and self-willed attempts that always failed must be seen and known for what they are – contrary to the ways of God; they must be laid aside, laid in the grave, and the NEW life must predominate instead.
Trusting someone to be the Ruler of my heart and Director of my doings should not be fearful when that Ruler/Director is God – what possible harm could he do, what possible mistake could he make?
Even if he asked me to do or say something that makes me uncomfortable or afraid (part of my reluctance) then can I not trust him, being God of all and the One who knows me inside out, to give me the willingness, ability, insight and desire to do everything he asks?
And what is the alternative? To go on trying to find ways that are acceptable and pleasing to God by myself, in my own wisdom and strength? IMPOSSIBLE!
An even more scary alternative is to juggle obedience and love towards God, alongside comfort, pleasure and security in the world – with the god of pleasure standing in the wings waiting to attract everyone who needs these things.
And what did we just learn about “serving two Masters”!!
At Such a Time as This
- Why has the futility of my own life been increasingly shown to me?
- Why do I feel shamed and humilified instead of victorious and joyful?
- Why has my failure and inability become more and more apparent?
- Why do I so often struggle with unanswered prayer?
- Why has the devil been allowed to harass and torment me?
- Why has the devil been allowed to mock me and lie to me?
- Why has my faith been tested to the limit?
- Why are there whispers of doubt?
All of this is NOT because of sin, nor (of course) is it God being unkind or uncaring, or incapable.
It’s a training school for what is coming, to ensure a more perfect faith and obedience, trust and dedication, yes a full surrender before the trials of this world become unendurable and the devil’s temptations become overwhelming. It’s an act of love!
This purging out of the dross from the gold is because of God’s love!
“And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.” (Zechariah 13:9)
Daniel 12:10 – “Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.”
Malachi 3:2-3 – “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.”
2 Corinthians 7:1 – “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Let Yourself Be Purged
Doubtless purging is not a pleasant experience. Nor is having the shortcomings of your Christian life pointed out. But if the alternative is an unhealthy mixture, tarnished metal, impurity, then let the purging begin!
Maybe you need to go back to basics and get born again – again!